Germany is on the right track. One might think. Because the country has managed to comply with the limit values for particulate matter and nitrogen oxide almost everywhere. But new WHO limits could mean that driving bans for petrol and diesel vehicles and new environmental zones will be introduced in hundreds of cities and regions.
The reason for this are new recommendations by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which are often already stricter than the EU limits. Now they are to be drastically lowered once again. Now it depends on whether the EU adopts these limits.
Older diesel vehicles have the greatest impact on nitrogen oxide levels in the air. Until now, the EU and the WHO applied the same limit value of 40 micrograms. The WHO has now lowered this value to 10 micrograms. While the WHO limits are not taken seriously by the USA, the WHO enjoys a good reputation in the EU. If the Greens in the EU Parliament have their way, the organisation's new guidelines will be adopted. Overnight, German cities and regions that were just considered clean would become air polluters again. More than 250 municipalities are affected.
If the WHO limit value were actually introduced, all urban measuring stations in Germany would report too much nitrogen oxide and city officials would have to conjure up new air pollution control plans, declare driving bans, introduce speed limits and environmental zones. The problem is that in large cities with a lot of pollution, all these measures, which mainly affect traffic, would not be sufficient. This is because pollution in large conurbations does not only come from vehicles. The heating of homes, industry and - especially in port cities - pollution from ships, where the development of electric drives is still in its infancy, also play a major role. Taking measures aimed solely at reducing diesel traffic would not have much effect in such cities. The limit values can then only be achieved through general driving bans for all vehicles. Whether electric vehicles are among them is still an open question. But heavy SUVs with electric drives, which require particularly heavy batteries, cause increased tyre wear due to their weight, which pollutes the air considerably. Other ways to comply with the limits would be to reduce emissions from heating systems and businesses, which inevitably leads to poorly heated homes and a reduction in production. Since not all affected cities will do this voluntarily, there would inevitably be many lawsuits again by environmental groups. As can be seen from the lawsuits on the implementation of diesel driving bans that have been going on for years.
Whether there will be new driving bans and environmental zones, and when and where they will be activated, you will find out in good time in our blog and in the Green-Zones app!